Simple measurement formulas for comfortable design

Have you ever felt uncomfortable in a room but weren’t sure why? Maybe the couch and chairs were too far apart, or the art hung too high, or a pendant light was too small for the room, or maybe the curtains didn’t reach the floor. Chances are your personal space has been subtly challenged. When spatial guidelines are ignored, a room can feel cluttered or unbalanced, or just not right. But it’s not always obvious, just something you feel.

The following measurement formulas will help you determine if your room has spatial balance. With a few adjustments, you can find harmony in your room with very little change!

furniture arrangement

  • Allow 2′ for aisles and try not to force aisles through a conversation space.
  • Allow 14″ to 18″ between the sofa and the coffee table.
  • Reserve 2′ behind dining room chairs and desks, and allow enough space to open drawers.
  • The conversation zone must be contained within an 8′ diameter.
  • The distance between the TV and the seats should be three times the size of the screen. For example, to comfortably watch TV on a 32″ screen, allow 8′ between the TV and the seating area.

hanging art

  • Most people hang art too high. While the normal advice is to hang the art so that the “normal” eye level (5′ 7″ to 5′ 10″) comes within a third of the top of the artwork. However, you should also consider the type of room and how the art will look. For example, hang living room art lower to attract seated guests, foyer art higher for standing guests, and children’s room art a little lower.
  • Bottom line: use common sense and when in doubt, hang it a little lower than you think you should.

pendant lights

  • The sum of the length and depth of a room (in feet) equals the ideal width of your light fixture in inches. For example, a 14′ x 12′ pendant chandelier in a dining room should be 26″ wide. A 10′ x 10′ pendant chandelier in a foyer should be 20″ wide.
  • When hanging a light above a kitchen or dining table, the bottom of the light should be 28″ to 32″ above the kitchen or dining table. Hang it lower for contemporary designs or intimate settings, and higher for larger tables.

Hanging curtain panels

  • Your goal is to hang them so that the bottom of the panel is just above the window sill, or all the way to the floor (not in the middle!).
  • The higher you hang the panels, the taller the room will feel.
  • Hang them approximately 3″ beyond each side of the window. This makes the window appear larger and allows more natural light to enter the room when the panels are open.
  • Double rods are great if you are hanging curtains behind the panels. Just make sure the curtains are the same length as the panels.

area rugs

  • When laying out an area rug in a dining room, measure your table and then add 24″ to 30″ all around (or about 4′ to 5′ overall length and width). This makes it easy for guests to move their chairs. Consider wheels on the bottom of the chairs to help them move more smoothly.
  • When using a room-size rug on hardwood floors, leave at least 8″ of exposed hardwood around all edges of the rug.
  • If you’re using an area rug in a living room, make sure it’s anchored to the front legs of the furniture and doesn’t float in the middle of the room.

So get out your tape measure and make your room more comfortable! Your friends will notice that something is wonderfully different, but they will never point out what it is. It will be our little secret!

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